Over ten years ago, Eric Ries wrote and published a book called The Lean Startup.
You may have heard of it. You may have read it.
It was written with software company founders in mind.
Think of it as Good to Great for these founders. Even now, this book and its many great ideas are still referenced regularly.
And here I am, referencing it again.
But today, I specifically wanted to draw on the key model from the book – The Build-Measure-Learn Loop – as a framework for advancing learner development.
As a point of note, the Build-Measure-Learn (BLM) Loop is largely a software-development focused adaption of The Scientific Method… which I am now adapting to apply to corporate training. But I digress.
The BML Loop model states if you want to grow efficiently and effectively, you need to go through the cycle of:
- 1. Identify a hypothesis (based on current information)
- 2. Build a minimum viable product, or MVP (the simplest possible product to test the hypothesis)
- 3. Test the hypothesis (apply it in the real world)
- 4. Review, adjust, and repeat (build in reflection periods and stick with them)
Ries states that the faster you work through the above cycle and the more frequently you work through it, the more informed your hypothesis becomes and – by extension – the faster your product improves.
This same method can – and should – be applied to the application of learning.
Using The BML Loop in Your Training Sessions
When participants are in the room with you, you are exposing them to new information.
That new information is (ideally) resonating with them on an emotional level; one where they feel an innate desire to embrace the new learning.
This ignites their inclination to put the learning into practice.
Based on the information they have at the moment in time – which is really a combination of their experience to date and the new information you have provided them with – they create a hypothesis.
They might not call it that, but they are essentially organizing the following thought:
“If I put these ideas into practice, I will develop this new skill set. This new skill set will lead to outcome X, Y, Z”.
That’s a great start, but to see true change this hypothesis needs to be tested.
When individuals complete your session and go out into the real world, they need help building a feedback loop; tools and prompts to reflect on a more regular basis.
More frequent reflection helps them learn faster and provides more opportunity for adjustment.
The challenge I see with so many programs, as far as the application phase is concerned, is the lack of feedback loop implementation.
Rather than a “loop”, most training seems to follow more of a “line” format: new content → commitment to application… nothing.
There might be a knowledge retention survey done a few months after the session to test impact or the difference the training has made in participants.
However, this is a one off.
It is equivalent to one feedback loop that has lasted several months.
Over the course of several months.
To me, this is tantamount to a sales leader establishing a growth target for the year and then reviewing progress once. A year later. Pretty tough to learn and adjust when you’re not engaging in reflection and review.
My question is how fast a feedback loop can we build into the application of the content for our learners?
Strive for daily.
This might sound crazy but stick with me here.
The more cycles these participants can complete, the more microreflections (LINK to microreflections post) they have the opportunity to engage in. The micro adjustments help them to achieve long term success.
What does that look like in practice?
It means encouraging your session participants to identify and commit to the smallest possible unit of change. Is there something that can be actioned on a daily basis?
The Method in Practice
Let’s say you’re running a leadership program; specifically, a module on delegation. Perhaps one individual’s takeaway is: at the end of the next monthly team meeting they will use this tactic to delegate more effectively.
That’s a great start. However, that meeting might not be for another three or four weeks and even once it happens it’s still only on a monthly basis that the skill set can be practiced.
While there is great intention behind this, it will take a long time before the change is truly embedded. The feedback loops simply aren’t fast enough.
Instead, you could encourage the participant to reframe.
Is there a smaller unit they could test on a daily basis?
Is there something that can be incorporated into every conversation they have with a colleague or another human?
Is there a question they could ask themselves?
Or is there a 30-second exercise that could be put into practice?
The idea is to have them thinking about how they can get more cycles of practice, then build in micro-reflection (and corresponding micro-adjustments) on an as-frequent-as-possible basis.
If you can help your participants think in terms of the scientific method (hypothesize, test and reflect) – and make that process as clear and as frequent as possible – you will dramatically increase the people in your program that successfully put their ideas into practice in a meaningful way.
I encourage you to think about this as you are designing your next session or better still, think about how you can incorporate that concept into a conversation everyday.
Actionable is on a mission to help boutique consultancies scale their business by giving them the tools to prove and amplify their impact.
The Habit Builder system is uniquely designed to make “faster feedback loops” easy for you to implement, and effective in helping learners apply your content.
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